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A Local’s Guide to Cap Ferret, France

A Local’s Guide to Cap Ferret, France

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A sandy, 15-mile spit that reaches across Arcachon Bay like a protective arm, Lège-Cap Ferret, on France’s western coast, is that country’s answer to New York’s Montauk, albeit dialed back a decade or two. Cap Ferret — not to be confused with Cap Ferrat, the glitzy, southeastern French peninsula with almost the same name — is a 30-minute ferry ride from the seaside town of Arcachon and features a varied, contrary, landscape: oyster farms on the tranquil lagoon, or bassin side, and a broad surf beach on the Atlantic side (“When there are waves, they are gigantic,” says the designer and architect Philippe Starck), which has attracted Parisians since the 1950s.

The past 15 years brought an influx of even more bourgeois-bohemian visitors — locals blame the 2010 movie “Little White Lies,” written and directed by Guillaume Canet and starring Marion Cotillard, along with the high-speed train that cut the journey time from Paris to Bordeaux, roughly 45 miles from Cap Ferret, to just over two hours in 2017. Yet the peninsula has managed, for the most part, to remain low-key.

Hotels are of the charming rather than luxury variety, while bicycles, vintage Citroëns and Mini Mokes outnumber Range Rovers and sports cars. And oyster cabanes, offering shellfish (an estimated 60 percent of the oysters consumed in France derive from the Arcachon Bay), white wine and not much else, serve as the local canteens.

Across the lagoon is Pyla-sur-Mer, a genteel village that’s home to the Philippe Starck-designed hotels La Co(o)rniche and Hotel Ha(a)ïtza and Europe’s tallest sand dune, the hulking Dune du Pilat, which rises more than 300 feet and makes for a challenging climb. Elegant Arcachon is also worth a visit for its markets and intriguing Ville d’Hiver, an enclave of ornate villas built in the 19th century for wealthy residents convalescing during Europe’s tuberculosis epidemic. Whatever you do, leave time to explore the dune-backed la Plage de l’Horizon on Cap Ferret’s Atlantic side. “It’s one of the last places in France where you can be alone on a beach in the middle of summer,” says the artist and fashion designer…

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